(born March 1
in Youngstown, Ohio
, United States
- died April 22 2008
) was a sports car enthusiast, lawyer and auto racing
executive best known for creating the Watkins Glen Grand Prix Race Course
in Watkins Glen, New York
and making it the home of the Formula One United States Grand Prix
Argetsinger grew up in Youngstown, where his father, James Cameron Argetsinger, was general counsel and secretary of the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company
. He spent the summers of his boyhood in Schuyler County, New York
visiting his grandparents and, later, his family's summer home. He inherited a love of fast cars from his father and in 1947 bought a sports car so he could become a member of the nascent Sports Car Club of America
Watkins Glen Sports Car Grand Prix
Before long, Argetsinger began to dream of organizing a sports car race in and around the town of Watkins Glen. "It's been said, and it's not entirely wrong, that I did it because I had an MG-TC
and didn't have a place to race it," he told The New York Times
in 1998. From 1948 through 1952, the Watkins Glen Sports Car Grand Prix
was held on a circuit that followed public roads through the village and around the nearby gorge. While the event was hugely popular, safety issues, namely the deaths of both drivers and spectators in crashes, forced it to move off the public roads after eight years.
Home of the United States Grand Prix
In 1953, Argetsinger was named Executive Director of the newly formed Watkins Glen Grand Prix Corporation. Three years later, the group purchased of land and built a 2.3-mile permanent racing facility, designed to imitate the winding country roads on which the race had originated. Soon the circuit was attracting some of the world's best road racers, including Stirling Moss
, Jo Bonnier
, Phil Hill
and Dan Gurney
, for the Formula Libre
races, which ran from 1958 through 1960. These events set the stage for Argetsinger's bid to host the ultimate American road racing event, the Formula One United States Grand Prix. His timing was perfect and after disappointing results in its first two years at Sebring, Florida
and Riverside, California
, the United States Grand Prix found a home in upstate New York in 1961
, and Watkins Glen became the focal point of American road racing for the next two decades.
In 1969, Argetsinger attempted to purchase the raceway in order to improve its financial operations. When the Grand Prix Corporation refused to sell, Argetsinger resigned as Executive Director and moved to Midland, Texas, where he went to work for Chaparral Cars.
Auto racing executive
Argetsinger moved to Denver in 1972 to become the Director of Professional Racing and then Executive Director of the Sports Car Club of America. In 1977, he returned to his law practice in Schuyler County, New York. He became president of the International Motor Racing Research Center in Watkins Glen in 2002.
Argetsinger was inducted in the inaugural induction class of the Sports Car Club of America Hall of Fame
First recipient of SCCA Woolf Barnato Trophy (1948)
Recipient of Bob Akin Memorial Award (2007) from the Road Racing Driver's Club (RRDC)
- O'Malley, J.J. and Bill Green. Watkins Glen, From Griswold to Gordon: Fifty Years of Competition At the Home of American Road Racing. 1998.
- Siano, Joseph. "The Hallowed Ground Of Sports Car Racing." The New York Times. 4 Sept. 1998.
- Herzog, Brad. "Driving Force."
- Racing Archives
- NYTimes Obituary